This past weekend, I had the opportunity to run the Santa Hustle 5k in Chicago as a member of Team Back on my Feet. It was the second time I’ve run this race, the first in 2009. The weather was pretty miserable both years (2009 was freezing and icy; 2011 was freezing and rainy), and as I stood under the shelter of the BOMF tent, huddled for warmth with perfect strangers, envying the BinDonated runner wearing a large plastic barrel, I wondered if anyone would notice if I slunk off into the mist. I reluctantly left the safety of the tent a few minutes before the gun went off, fighting through the crowd for a spot in the “start corral.” Somehow, I ended up standing next to a horse. A wet one. Named Dolly. That was a first.
While it was a crowded race, I managed to fight my way through a mass of Santas and break into a decent clip. I realized that I had flown through my second mile at an 8:25 pace… way faster than my standard 9:30-9:45 and WAY faster than the 10+ minutes it took me to fight my way through the first mile. It was at that point that I realized that I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to cross that finish line with pride. And I did. With an official time of 28:40, I had landed a PR.
Now, I’ve been a runner for about 5 years, and in all that time, I’ve never actually felt like I was racing. I never allowed myself to designate any importance to my time – stripping the race results of any consequence removed any pressure to perform and any shame in reporting failure to fellow runners.
A few hours after the race, Penguin pinged me to ask how it went. I described the weather. I told him about the horse. I told him I almost went home. I told him it was a good race despite all of these things. A few minutes later, presumably after he had seen my twitter updates, I received an angry “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT YOU PR’D?!?!?!” message from him. Penguin is fast. His 5k PR is somewhere south of 12min faster than mine. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed to be excited about something that he was clearly superior at doing; more importantly, I was embarrassed to be caught hiding it from him.
I’ve been pushing myself harder these past few weeks, working on my speed, and building my confidence. My usual excuses don’t cut it anymore. I realized something on my run tonight: the slightly annoying “running as a metaphor for life” mantra that permeates billboards and self-help books? It’s true.
We break hearts. We break toenails. We break walls. We break promises. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we break PRs. If we’re really lucky, we break through the shame of all of these things.